Colin Powell may have been an inspiration for some. But on Feb. 5, 2003, he forever tainted his legacy with a lie that he knew was a lie. He appeared in front of the United Nations Security Council, held up a vial of anthrax and said there was intel that Saddam Hussein was looking to use it as a biological weapon with other weapons of mass destruction. Six weeks later, America was at war, its second, with Iraq.
Powell took the fall and later resigned after the re-election of President George W. Bush. But he had done what he was intended to do – take one for the team. While the U.N. might have been more cautious, a divided Congress a year and a half coming together following 9/11, decided to send thousands of troops to take down Hussein. If you were against this, you were labeled a traitor. Bush even said it, “You’re either with us; or you’re against this.”
Undercover cops were infiltrating community groups that questioned the policies of the Bush/Cheney Administration. Emails forwarded from crazy uncles to members in their families spread lies how all the middle East (well, not Saudi Arabia) was behind 9/11, even though most of the terrorists were Saudi nationals. And the young people who questioned the authenticity of these emails were ironically told by people who didn’t understand the Internet they were wrong.
Powell was Secretary of the State at the time of the 2003 U.N. hearing. During the Persian Gulf War, he was chair of the Joint Chiefs. A four-star Army General, Powell had served during Vietnam. As the elder Bush said in his push for war, “This will not be another Vietnam.” If Powell wasn’t the chair, we would’ve had another Vietnam. And Dick Cheney, who was the Secretary of Defense in 1991, wanted that.
So, when it came time for a second opportunity, he made sure Powell would know his place. It was payback time. Powell resigned on Jan. 26, 2005. He didn’t even last one full week as Secretary of State during W.’s second term. This is what the Republican Party does to its members. And Powell should’ve known better.
Yes, Democrats, Republicans, regardless, sometimes have to do things they’re not proud of. But Powell embellished a lot of what he told the U.N. People were watching and listening. Growing up in the south, all I heard from some people, aka white rednecks who barely made it through their civic classes taught by a football coach wearing nuthugger shorts to the classroom, America needed to get out of the U.N. In my public speaking class in college, a man who obviously was a racist, made it the topic but omitted a lot.
It didn’t matter what the U.N. did. It didn’t matter what Congress did. A lawyer says something during a trial that the other side objects and it’s sustained. The jury is told to disregard it, but do they really disregard it? The American public saw this great nuclear holocaust they had been force fed since the Cold War began. And worse, there was going to be biological warfare on top of that nuclear war.
I remember something the elder Bush was saying when the Persian Gulf War ended. There was a big huge meeting in Congress and Powell was there. Bush said something about him possibly being the first black President of America. And I remember Powell’s look at first was odd. He wasn’t surprised. He wasn’t flattered. It was like when you told someone a secret and they blurt it out to everyone.
Could Powell have been the first black President? Yes. I believe he could. If he ran as a Democrat. The Republicans were never going to elect him, no matter what. George Carlin once said of Powell that he’s “openly white,” but “he just happens to be black.” You can look at Paul Winfield’s performance as Gen. Casey in Mars Attacks! as a direct parody of Powell.
The fact that Powell was light-skinned black was why Americans were so easy to accept him. And when you hear people talk about how Powell always talked clearly, what they were saying re-emphasized that Carlin joke. Powell sounded “white.” We set up stereotypes of people of different races and backgrounds and when someone goes against it, we say they’re “one of the good ones.”
Some could say the vial was a “white lie.” But the joke was, “Of course, Iraq has weapons of mass destructions. America kept the receipts.” Just 20 years prior, we had helped Iraq and Afghanistan by supplying them with weapons. Iraq was in a war with Iran and Afghanistan had been invaded by the Soviet Union. What a difference a couple of decades make.
A lot of people, who probably criticized Powell, have spoken out well about him following his passing. And I sympathize with his family and close friends. But he drove the getaway car in what happened in Iraq. He’s as much responsible as W. and Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. It’s obvious they threw him under the bus because it would be easier to “blame it all on the black guy.”
What I don’t agree with how anti-vaxxers are pushing that it’s an example of the Covid-19 vaccine not working, there were a few factors with him. First, he was 84 at the time he passed. Two, his family said he was in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease. He also had multiple myeloma which had complicated his immune system. He had three strikes against his body which made it harder to fight against Covid, vaccine or not.
And leave it to a piece of shit like Donald J. Trump to make Powell’s death about he, himself, has been unfairly treated. Yes, sometimes, people do speak of people as if they’re saints when they die. While Powell gave false evidence, he still had an impressive life. Trump calls him a RINO (Republican In Name Only), but I think maybe Powell was an old-school Republican. Yes, there was once a time in which Republicans could have more conservative ideas but still not be straight up sexist, misogynistic, bigoted people like Trump.
I’m not really sure Trump would’ve cared for Powell any short of calling him “Mastah!” Powell earned his four-stars as a general. Trump was Commander-in-Chief on a fluke that should’ve never happened. It’s a shame the blip will be on Powell’s legacy. He deserved more. And a lot of our service members should’ve still be alive or in better health, both mentally and physically, today.
Worse, Iraq and Afghanistan are still powder kegs ready to explode.